The more people learn about the protesting government workers in Wisconsin, the more they side with Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislators who are trying to limit the employees' union power and perks.
Attempting to play on sympathy for school teachers -- and create the idea that the Wisconsin conflict is actually about education, which it's not -- unions have been using teachers as the "face" of the Madison protests. But this seemingly clever idea is backfiring as Wisconsin taxpayers learn exactly how much these teachers are paid.
Nearly all of the teachers featured prominently in media accounts earn substantially above the average income of Wisconsin residents (about $37,000 a year) and the value of their benefit packages adds a shockingly large amount to their total compensation, as Matthew Boyle of the Daily Caller reports:
Wisconsin's 2010 Teacher of the Year, Leah Lechleiter-Luke of Mauston High School, told CNN the budget changes would force her to look for additional part-time work. "When people say that public sector employees live high off the hog, I'd like to share that for 13 of my 19-year teaching career I have held a part-time job either in the summer or teaching night class at the local technical college," Lechleiter-Luke told CNN. "In addition to tightening the belt even more and crossing our fingers that nothing breaks, I will need to find part-time work again."
Lechleiter-Luke makes $54,928 in base salary and $32,213 in "fringe benefits," which include health insurance, life insurance and retirement pay.
Brad Lutes and his wife, Heather Lutes, told MSNBC's Ed Schultz that Walker's budget would hit them twice as hard.
"Having to explain to an 8- and 10-year old that the governor of your state basically wants to take money away from dad and mom? It's just really, really frustrating," Brad Lutes told Schultz.
He makes $49,412 in base salary with $27,987 in fringe benefits and his wife makes $50,240 with $9,413 in benefits. That's $137,052 annually between the two of them. . . .
Several similar examples are cited by Boyle. At a time of economic hardship, it's hard for the average citizen to work up much sympathy for people who are collecting relatively generous compensation. As one veteran conservative operative in Wisconsin explained to me, people "hear the whining for what it is - Marie Antoinette on the way to the guillotine."
It's hardly surprising, then, that the White House has recently attempted to downplay reports of its involvement with the Wisconsin protests.
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